The People's Rifle Perfected
Put Your Own Personal Stamp on Mikhail Kalashnikov's Masterwork
By Roy Hill
The Kalashnaikov has long been known as the “sturdy implement of the proletariat”. Robust, reliable and effective, it’s a simple “people’s rifle” that can be cached in a rice paddy, or buried in the sand near the village, and still be expected to function when needed. There are reasons why the AK-47 appears on the national flag of Mozambique.
But for us spoiled Westerners, the AK’s simplicity, much-prized elsewhere, can be less than satisfying. Despite its near-total reliability, the rifle often leaves us wanting more. It’s boring. And we want to make it unique somehow. We Americans are rugged individualists. We want “just-for-me” architecture, not the drab, utilitarian product of Soviet-era mass production.
Luckily, there are now lots of ways to personalize and customize your AK. You still get the benefits of Mikhail Kalashnikov’s genius for simplicity, but now you can add parts to improve the AK’s performance and modern furniture and accessories to suit your own taste. You can make the AK unique and interesting.
First, The Rifle
Before you can begin customizing an AK, you must first have an AK. The days of visiting a gun store or gun show and finding stacks of Norinco MAK-90s or Bulgarian SLR-95s or Egyptian MAADIs for around $350 a pop are long gone. In an ironic twist, you’ll most likely pay way more for an AK-47 than for an entry-level AR-15.
Another irony is some of the better AK-47s now available are made in the USA. With many of the old sources of imported AKs drying up, a good, entry-level rifle is the Century Arms RAS-47, easily obtained from the new online gun store under the “Firearms” tab at Brownells.com. Built on a stamped receiver, the RAS-47 is completely American made, and it comes with classic wooden furniture, a finger-groove polymer pistol grip and an optic-mounting rail already installed on the left side of the receiver.
Destructive Devices Industries (or just “DDI” to the aficionados) AKs are other good examples of American-made Kalashnikovs, and are available in several different configurations, including both side- and under-folder stocks with either wood or synthetic furniture.
Either rifle would be a fine place to start your own custom AK project.
Next, The Guts
Original factory bang-switches on AKs can sometimes be a bit like that neighbor down the street you grew up on - creepy. Shooters more interested in function over form can immediately enhance an AK’s performance just by installing a new trigger. It’s held in place by a couple of pins, a lot like an AR-15 trigger, only with the addition of a “shepherd’s hook” spring or plate inside the receiver that keeps the slotted pins in place.
ALG Defense, well-known for their AR-15 parts, has joined the AK Sweepstakes with a sweet pair of drop-in Kalashnikov triggers. Unlike their Soviet forbears, these triggers are carefully machined, and specially finished to give a crisp, concise single-stage pull. The Enhanced model is just like the base model, only with an even lighter pull.
Another popular drop-in trigger for AKpattern rifles is the Tapco AK-47 Trigger Group, which includes the trigger, disconnector, trigger sleeve, and hammer. It virtually eliminates the “trigger slap” that sometimes plagues AK shooters. Trigger slap is when the hammer hits the disconnector as the bolt carrier recoils back, causing the trigger to slap the shooter’s finger! Repeated slaps will sting a bit, similar to when you fail to notice your significant other’s new outfit.
The Tapco trigger is available for both single- and double-hook rifles. Flip your AK over and look at the rectangular hole in the bottom of the receiver the trigger comes out of. If you see one elongated slot in a front corner of the hole, you need the single-hook. If you see two such slots, you need the double-hook.
Another way to give your AK more inner beauty is to drop in upgraded springs, like the ALG Recoil Spring, or throw in a Krebs Enhanced Safety that makes it easier to manipulate the safety and lock the bolt back on an empty chamber.
Red Army RAS -47 Rifle, 7.62x39
M4-72 Severe Duty Brake
Krebs Custom Inc.:
AK-47/74 Enhanced Safety
While improving the internals of your AK helps make it a better shooter, it doesn’t do much for the way it looks and handles. Designed more than 70 years ago, The Tapco trigger is available for both single- and double-hook rifles. Flip your AK over and look at the rectangular hole in the bottom of the receiver the trigger comes out of. If you see one elongated slot in a front corner of the hole, you need the single-hook. If you see two such slots, you need the double-hook. Another way to give your AK more inner beauty is to drop in upgraded springs, like the ALG Recoil Spring, or throw in a Krebs Enhanced Safety that makes it easier to manipulate the safety and lock the bolt back on an empty chamber. Window Dr essing While improving the internals of your AK helps make it a better shooter, it doesn’t do much for the way it looks and handles. Designed more than 70 years ago, the Avtomat Kalashnikov pre-dates modern niceties like advanced muzzle devices, ergonomic furniture with rails and mounting slots, and stocks optimized to work with scopes and red dots, lights, and lasers. Fortunately, the aftermarket has come to the rescue in a big way with accessories to dress up your AK from stem to stern.
The classic “slant brake” is the muzzle device most associated with the AK, and it gives the rifle sort of a shovel-nose look. For those jonesing to update their Kalashnikov’s cosmetics, something like the Primary Arms TAC47 Compensator is the ticket. It looks cool - and also really reduces muzzle rise during rapid fire. The Manticore Nightbrake not only combats muzzle rise but dials down felt recoil a whole lot, too.
For those who demand SEAL-Ninja- SWAT-Ranger performance out of their gear, including AK-47 muzzle devices, there’s the Precision Armament M4-72 Severe Duty Brake. This bad boy is so efficient at venting muzzle gases to the side, it comes with a warning that it could cause excessive concussion and blast on barrels less than 14.5" long, so install on your Krinkov with caution.
Rearranging the Furniture
When it comes to furniture upgrade options, you have a plethora of handguards and stock sets you can add to your Kalashnikov that help configure it just about any way you want it.
If you prefer the durability of polymer on your rifle, look no further than our friends at Magpul, who have brought their genius for ergo-friendly, slick-looking AR-15 furniture to AK World. Their Zhukov-S line of AK furniture shares a name with the famous Russian WWII general, Georgy Zhukov, and includes a handguard, buttstock, and pistol grip. Buy ’em separately or, more conveniently, in a handy set.
The main advantages the Zhukov-S handguard offers are M-LOK® slots for direct mounting of M-LOK® accessories, or handy rail segments for your older Picatinny gear. The side-folding stock makes your AK a whole lot more compact to store, AND it can be installed on any AK, even one that was not designed to have a folding stock. The Zhukov handguard is longer than the original AK handguard, and does require the removal of the standard AK handguard retainer, but that’s an easy modification.
For no-mods-required polymer furniture, try the MOE® AK sets. Again, you can get these as individual pieces, or as sets. Both these and the Zhukov series come in a range of colors, allowing your personality to shine through in your AK. You can even get a Plum hue that closely resembles the color of the Kalashwood furniture on old Soviet Bloc rifles.
Looking for some extra moxie from furniture to handle hard knocks? For extra sturdiness and stiffness, there’s the anodized aluminum Troy AK-47/74 handguard, which can be had with either a top or bottom rail, plus Picatinny and optics mounting slots. Samson has also produced a clever aluminum handguard that gives a very AR-15-like quadrail setup.
For even more choices in aluminum, Midwest Industries has a whole line of AKXG2 handguards with either KeyMod™ or M-LOK mounting slots. You can get these with cutouts to mount specific modern optics, like the Aimpoint T1 or Trijicon MRO.
AK Bottom-Rail Handguard
AK-47 K-Rail Forearm
AKG2 Universal KeyMod/Railed Top Hanguard
PMA G 30 GEN M3 (7.62x39 - Black)
AK-47/AKM 30-Rd Magazine (7.62x39)
Like the rifles, imported surplus magazines used to be plentiful and cheap. Now, because sources have dried up, you’ll see some imported surplus magazines for sale at prices not that are far off from what whole rifles used to cost. Not good.
But the AK’s popularity means you can get modern, domestically-produced magazines that are better than originals. Of course, Magpul is a major player here, the basic but oh-so reliable PMAG® AK MOE® or the enhanced PMAG® AK GEN M3, both with über-tough polymer bodies and anti-tilt followers. The GEN M3 is bolstered with steel reinforcements in key areas, like the front and rear lugs and the spine for toughness even Spetsnaz operators would envy.
Tapco also fields well-regarded polymer magazines, in both smooth-side and ribbed configurations. Like the Magpul products, they can be had in traditional 7.62x39 and 5.45x39 for AK-74 variants.
Repair or Roll Your Own
As reliable as the AK is, like any gun it’s a mechanical device. All mechanical devices will eventually wear, and some parts may break. When that happens, DDI offers an extensive array of AK replacement parts for any repair job you can imagine.
As you get familiar with AKs, it’s actually possible to grab a receiver, and roll your own rifle, though it is a bit more involved than building an AR-15. Again, DDI’s lineup of parts, from the pins and rivets all the way up to the sometimes-hard-to-find front trunnion, is ideal for a D.I.Y. AK build. And it’s all made right here in the U.S. of A.
Make That AK Truly Yours
The AK has earned a reputation as a simple, reliable gun that just about any country can make, and anybody from highlytrained troops to simple peasants can easily use. It is, quite literally, the most massproduced firearm on Planet Earth, with an estimated 100 million or so spread around the world. If you get one - and let’s face it, you really should - you don’t have to leave it in its original, drab Iron Curtain form. Now, you can make the Kalashnikov truly yours by choosing from the current bounty of performance parts and accessories. Do it, and your AK will say "Spa-se e-bo, Komrad."